Originally posted on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 4/17/12

The San Francisco Giants want to lock up their young stars. After signing both Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner to long-term contracts, the Giants have now reached out to Buster Posey‘s agent about an extension. In his short time in the majors, Posey has emerged as one of one of the best catchers in the game. And while some young catchers recently received significant extensions, Posey’s combination of skill and age make it tough to find a great comparison.

Just this season, we’ve seen Salvador Perez, Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Santana get long-term contracts. Coincidentally, all of those players signed their deals with zero to two years of major-league service time. Since Posey has a little more than a year of major-league time, those contracts are a good starting point to find comparisons.

Player Age Years Amount Options Service Time WAR Buster Posey 25 ? ? ? 1.161 5.5 Carlos Santana 26 5 $21 million 1 1.115 5.2 Salvador Perez 21 5 $7 million 3 0.05 1.4 Jonathan Lucroy 25 4 $11 million 1 1.136 2.7

From this list, only Carlos Santana’s contract can be used as a fair comparison. Perez was signed far too early in his career to use as a comparison, and Posey has been much better than Lucroy. Santana and Posey, though, are very similar. Both have identical service time and produced nearly the same WAR. Both players also suffered serious knee injuries.

But there are a few factors that could make Posey the higher-paid player. Posey is a year younger, and he reached the majors slightly earlier than Santana. As a 23-year-old, Posey played in 108 games for the Giants and won the rookie-of-the-year award. Santana didn’t make his major-league debut until he was 24. And while both players produced the same amount of value in their first two seasons, Posey produced a higher WAR in 200 fewer plate appearances.

Thanks to our new age filters at FanGraphs, we can find players like Posey who experienced similar success at the same point in their careers. By looking at catchers between the ages of 23 and 24 — with at least 500 plate appearances — we get a much better idea of how Posey will perform in the long-term.

It turns out that Posey is in pretty elite company. Only Joe Mauer, Russell Martin and Brian McCann produced more value than Posey at this stage in their careers. And again, Posey produced his WAR in fewer plate appearances. Alex Avila was just about as valuable as Posey, but they are the same age, so we can’t use him to predict how well Posey will perform in the future.

Using the Santana deal as a barometer, let’s say Posey wants a five-year extension. If he signs it this season, the deal would last through his age-30 season. Since Martin — the oldest player in this exercise — is just 29-years-old, we can look at how these catchers performed through their age-28 seasons. McCann just began his age-28 season, so his numbers might skew a little low.

Name G PA BB% K% ISO AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Fld WAR Joe Mauer 503 2156 11.90% 9.50% 0.149 0.332 0.411 0.481 0.384 138 -3.6 21.1 Brian McCann 417 1677 10.90% 16.30% 0.196 0.274 0.358 0.469 0.357 122 14.2 14.2 Russell Martin 520 2101 12.20% 14.50% 0.112 0.256 0.355 0.368 0.325 98 5.5 11.9

All three players have remained incredibly effective for the first couple of seasons. Mauer was other-worldly until injuries took hold during his age-28 season. Martin fell off a bit during his age-27 season, due to overwork, but he rebounded nicely last year. McCann has been pretty consistent through his age-27 year, and he posted a WAR above 4 in each season. So how does all of this apply to Posey?

We know that Posey is young, exceptionally good for his age and he should continue to play at a high level for a least the next three seasons. While Santana’s deal is a good starting point, Posey has more encouraging comps when you sort by age. Some of the same players appear on Santana’s comp list, but he’s more similar in value to Kurt Suzuki and Yadier Molina than to Mauer, Martin or McCann.

Mauer had already put in six years of service time before signing his monster deal, so there’s no chance Posey will get that type of contract. Martin has never signed an extension, so we can’t use a contract as a comp for Posey. McCann makes for an interesting comparison, though.

During his age-23 season, McCann signed a six-year, $26.8 million extension with the Atlanta Braves. That contract also carries a 2013 club option. While McCann and Posey are a good comp from a statistical standpoint, McCann also signed his deal with about nearly the same amount of service time.

Since Posey is slightly older than McCann, he might not get a six-year deal. But based on his numbers — and comparable players at his age — Posey should ask for McCann-like money. Since the market has changed a bit since 2007, when McCann signed his deal, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Posey get five-years, $30 million.


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